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IndyStar reports a surprise bid by the City-County Council president to pass a stronger smoking ban covering bars and bowling alleys — in the waning days of the Republican majority — has caught two key groups off guard.

Democrats had been making plans to push for an even stronger measure after they take control of the council Jan. 1. No matter who’s in charge, their votes are vital for passage of an expanded smoking ban in any form, since many Republicans are opposed.

And anti-smoking advocates called the move by Republicans — with backing from Mayor Greg Ballard — “disingenuous,” at best.

Both groups are wary of several exemptions President Ryan Vaughn says he plans to include in his proposal, including cigar and hookah bars and, as Ballard has long insisted, veterans halls.

But aside from coming disputes over the details, Vaughn’s announcement Tuesday moves a stronger smoking ban closer to reality than it’s been since the council passed a ban covering most other workplaces in 2005.

Vaughn says his intent is to meet Democrats’ own stated deadline: having a ban on smoking in bars in place before Super Bowl festivities begin in late January.

A spokesman for Ballard — a Republican who threatened to veto such a measure two years ago but has softened his stance since then — said unequivocally that he supports Vaughn’s proposal.

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